By Sheilah Zimpel
I edited a parenting column last night about how this mother got her kids ready to go back to school. And I didn’t believe a word of it. Seriously, trading in playing cards for flash cards, videogames for books? Putting away beach puzzles for maps of continents? Storing away logo T-shirts for collared ones? Hiding remotes, turning off the TV? Setting alarm clocks earlier in 10-minute increments a day, moving bedtime from 10 to 8? Who is this hyperorganized woman so in control of her subjects, I ask. Keep her away from me.
I barely remembered to buy new shoes and a backpack. Check. Ready for school.
My theory for preparing to go back to school, borrowed from some wise like-minded soul, is similar to your pre-college summer: Make the last weeks of summer at home so incredibly, so stupefyingly, so outrageously boring that he’ll be begging for school as an escape. With the amount of hours Dave and I have worked (outside the home) this summer, I think Dylan is uber-prepared. He read half a book. He wrote a total of two words, and that’s just because I asked him if he still knew how to write. It was legible. Check. (Then I recalled his teacher saying to practice his penmanship. Uh oh.) This penman’s ship is sunk.
One way we accidentally prepared for the return to school was mentioning the annoying kid’s name, the kid we call in code by his moniker spelled backward, the kid who is so pesky that everyone avoids him. Now I’ve trained Dylan to be nice to everyone, but this dern kid just wouldn’t let up, and I think it’s because I trained Dylan to be nice to everyone. (So I revised for next year: Avoid him at all costs.) We said a little prayer that maybe he won’t be in his class, which is doubtful, as last year’s teacher is looping up with the same class. But she loves Dylan, so I think we’ll ask to sit far away from the bane of our fourth-gradeness. Check.
So I say, why prepare for back to school—it brings up horrors of routine and annoyance. Kids are resilient, can change on a dime, and enjoy a good foot race to the bus stop. And Moms seem born ready for the return, for all those projects we failed to do in the summertime because we were driving here and there and having kidlike fun. Back to school time means no excuses for housework undone, unkempt lawns, dinner out. We like to think, dreamily, that it means free time, but it really means back to getting things done. And I don’t wanna. Can’t make me.
I feel the need to lay upside down on the couch and see if the video game works that way. Then I just might need to duct tape the chair silver. And freeze some more Lego dudes. I sure will miss that Phineas and Ferb theme song.
But the second parenting columnist I edited last night, the old-school child psychologist I always laugh with in agreement, brought the SuperMom columnist back to reality. His column was a response to parents whose tween runs in circles, spontaneously, erratically, dumbfoundingly. And he set me straight on all this line-your-kids-up-like-ducks-in-a-row mess—he said your tween’s just quirky, an oddball like the rest of us. It’s just what we do, and there’s no need to suppress it.
Let’s run in circles for no reason at all.